Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger! (2012)

2014 #133
Debbie Isitt | 109 mins | Blu-ray | 1.78:1 | UK / English | U

Nativity 2David Tennant replaces Martin Freeman as the teacher of a primary school class who enter themselves in a Christmas singing competition in this part-improvised sequel to the endearing 2009 hit.

Sadly, lightning doesn’t strike twice. A talented cast (also including Joanna Page, Jason Watkins, Ian McNeice and Jessica Hynes, all of whom are underused) struggle with an over-padded story, which leads to a climactic concert full of charmless, cringeworthy songs. There’s some sweetness from the kids, but not enough to paper over the cracks.

It’s no wonder last Christmas’ second sequel (with another new, bargain basement, leading man) flopped badly.

2 out of 5

Nativity 2 featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2014, which can be read in full here.

Nativity! (2009)

2011 #94
Debbie Isitt | 106 mins | Blu-ray | 1.78:1 | UK / English | U / PG

Nativity!Yes, this is exactly the kind of review I should be posting in April. But hey, it’s Easter! That’s about Jesus too, right? (It’ll have to do, I’m not hanging on ’til next Christmas.)

Nativity! comes from writer-director Debbie Isitt, previously responsible for the entertaining part-improvised comedy Confetti, and this fits in a similar vein… albeit more family-friendly than a movie featuring Robert Webb and Olivia Colman as nudists. This one sees Confetti’s Martin Freeman as a primary school teacher charged with producing his school’s nativity, which always gets bad reviews in the local paper (do any local papers really review nativities?) while their rival private school always gets glowing endorsements. To make matters worse, the other school’s nativity director is an old friend/rival (Confetti’s Jason Watkins), and he must deal with an enthusiastic but unprofessional new classroom assistant (Confetti’s Marc Wootton), and there’s some stuff about his ex-girlfriend (Extra’s Ashley Jensen) who’s gone to LA, and it’s all quite straightforward when you watch it but I’m making a right pig’s ear of describing it. This is why I didn’t use to bother trying to include plot summaries.

It’s not wholly my fault — it’s kind of a daft plot, really. It’s played relatively straight and realist, but it goes off that beaten track at times. Which I suppose is fine — why not, after all? Christmas spiritNo one promised grim social realism — it’s a Christmas family film, with some moral messages and a sort of romance and sweet kids and a cute dog. And regular readers know how much I love a cute dog.

It’s also cheesy and silly, with an ending so packed with sentimentality it could make Spielberg look like a grumpy spoilsport. But in a feel-good Christmas-time film I think that’s mostly allowed. It’s not deep or meaningful, and it’s not cutting edge or shocking, but it has a charm and a sweetness that sit well at that time of year. The kind of film you flop on the sofa, shove your brain in to neutral, and tuck in to a box of chocolates while smiling along.

Try watching this at any other time of year (like, er, now) and you can knock a star off, but over the Christmas period it’s a fluffily entertaining diversion. Maybe I should’ve held this review back after all.

4 out of 5

Confetti (2006)

2007 #75
Debbie Isitt | 96 mins | TV | 15 / R

ConfettiLargely improvised Britcom, shot in a documentary style, about three couples trying to win a most original wedding competition.

It starts out quite poorly, with unlikable characters and an irritating style, but things do improve and a number of the characters do grow on you (some, deliberately, remain horrid). My favourites are the pair of camp wedding planners — you don’t get much more stereotypical, but they’re lovable and amusing from the off.

Fittingly, the weddings at the end are probably the best bits.

3 out of 5

Confetti is on BBC Two tonight, Monday 25th August 2014, at 11pm.